Theology and Pyrotheology

Mark 12:38-40 [Jesus] continued teaching. “Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns [long robes], preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. (MSG)

Theology is the task of articulating rationality regarding matters of faith; faith in search of understanding. It is the birthing of ideas after the pregnant wrestling with those questions raised by living faithfully in, but not of, the world (John 17:14-15). Unfortunately, when the church tries to emulate empire, theology (doctrine, dogma) becomes a tool for controlling the masses — believe the wrong way and you will be corrected or shunned or declared a heretic or excommunicated or burned at the stake.

At its best, theology is entering into the mystery of faith; at its worst, the exercise of power and privilege.

Wendell Berry on theology:

Having written some pages in favor of Jesus,I received a solemn communication crediting me with being in possession of a “theology” by which I acquire the strange dignity of being wrong forever or forever right. … If I am a theologian I am one to the extent that I have learned to duck when the small, haughty doctrines fly over head, dropping their loads of whitewash at random on the faces of those looking toward Heaven. … The depth and volume of the waters of baptism, the true taxonomy of sins, the field marks of those most surely saved, God’s own only true interpretation of the Scripture: these would be causes of eternal amusement could we forget how we have hated one another, how vilified and hurt and killed one another, bloodying the world by means of such questions, wrongly asked, never to be rightly answered, but asked and wrongly answered, hour after hour, day after day, year after year — such is my belief — in Hell. (Wendell Berry, Leavings, 2010, page 114f.)

Perhaps theology could use an infusion of humility (and even whimsy) as we attempt to understand that our world is the product of 3.7 billion years of on-going creative activity since the Big Bang, that the building blocks of our physical being were forged in the atomic ovens of exploding stars, that quantum physics has re-defined the previous Newtonian (mechanistic) worldview, that mystery continues to disrupt our rationality, that we humans continue to prove ourselves irresponsible stewards of the earth, that violence too often takes precedence over love.

Theology was once considered the queen of the sciences. For theology to take its proper place in today’s church and society, Peter Rollins suggests a move to pyrotheology.

By theoretically setting fire to the layers of belief we put over reality to protect ourselves from reality, pyrotheology seeks to ignite a sense of greater depth in life beyond the need for wholeness and certainty. Pyrotheology explores how the events testified to in the founding documents of Christianity invite us to fully embrace the reality of our brokenness and unknowing


Print Friendly, PDF & Email